No one needs to be told that there is a way to go on gender equality in the law, but sometimes it is worth reflecting on how far the profession has come in a relatively short time. Law Society president Christina Blacklaws draws our attention to the ‘women’ pages of an old careers guide and a section titled ‘From Learning to Earning’.
‘Practice at the Bar is a demanding task for a man; it is even more difficult for a woman,’ the author explains. ‘Her trouble starts when she tries to arrange pupillage and a seat in chambers. Pressure being what it is, nearly all barristers who have a vacancy would prefer to give it to a man; and even when she has found a seat the clerk may prefer to “build up” a man. In my view, it would be folly for a woman to read for the Bar with the intention of practising without first establishing that someone in practice will help her.’
Even then, Obiter learns, a woman will have other problems: ‘An advocate’s task is essentially combative, whereas women are not generally prepared to give battle unless they are annoyed.’
There was better news in another branch of the profession. ‘There is no longer any reason why a woman should not succeed as a solicitor,’ the author reassures any women who read this far. This is because women made really good divorce lawyers, ‘since married women frequently prefer to confide the details of their married life to a member of their own sex’.
Alarmingly, this relic dates from as recently as 1974: the year of two general elections and ABBA encouraging us all to celebrate Waterloo.